Malaysiakini.com an online news initiative is currently embroiled in a controversy over its funding. Its been alleged that it is being funded by George Soros' monies. Read on to find out how the story broke and how the various sides have been responding to it!
INTERNATIONAL financier and currency speculator George Soros backed out of a planned trip to Thailand after it became clear that he would receive a hostile welcome in Bangkok.
Thai political parties and non-governmental organisations had threatened to hold demonstrations to protest against his visit. They accused him of causing the collapse of the baht, and hence the economy of the country, in 1997 through his speculative activities.
One businessman posted on the website an offer of reward for the public to pelt him with excrement.
It is interesting that more than four years after the collapse of their economy, Thais are rising against Soros and the likes of him.
It took the Thai masses a long time to realise what currency speculators like Soros did to them. The IMF bail-out made things worse for them.
Equally interesting are the comments by the western media that Soros is the victim of rising Thai nationalism.
They may be correct. The Thais, who are known for their friendliness and accommodation, have finally realised that they are the victims of a new type of colonialism _ the economic type. This rekindles their sense of nationalism.
Seen in that context, the argument that the post-Cold War world is being subjected to a new kind of imperialism is not far-fetched.
The Thais are beginning to acknowledge it and are taking steps to protect their interests by strengthening their sense of nationalism.
Back home, the Malaysiakini news portal may want to rename itself "Soroskini" following an expose by the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine that it receives financial backing from Soros' Open Society Fund via the Thailand-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa).
Saturday February 3
Malaysiakini seeks retraction from magazine K Kabilan
3:36pm, Sat: Malaysiakini has called on international magazine, the Far Eastern Economic Review, to issue a clear retraction of its report linking Internet news website malaysiakini to financier George Soros.
In an article titled 'Levelling the Field' in its Feb 8 edition, the weekly magazine stated that malaysiakini was among the media organisations in Asia which received funds from the Open Society Fund, a charity body set up by the US-based billionaire.
Yesterday, Malaysiakini.com chief executive officer Premesh Chandran said in a statement that the Review's report, which said that the Internet news portal has received funds from Soros, is not true.
This inaccurate detail appeared in the introduction to an interview with Soros conducted by the Review's Nayan Chanda in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan 28.
The News Straits Times today ran a report titled "Soros-backed Seapa gives grants to news portal" quoting the Review's managing editor Michael Vatikiotis as saying that "the Open Society Fund funds the Bangkok, Thailand-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa), one source of funding for Malaysiakini.com."
According to Chandran, this clarification from the Review, while a departure from the assertion that malaysiakini is directly funded by Soros' foundation, is inadequate.
This is because it suggested that malaysiakini received funds indirectly from Soros, which is not the case, he said.
"The clarification is misleading. In the light of the Open Society Institute (OSI) statement, we hope it would convince the Review to issue a clear explanation of their inaccurate report on malaysiakini," said Chandran today.
He was referring to a statement which the OSI sent to Vatikiotis this morning, and copied to malaysiakini.
No funding provided
The statement, signed by OSI's senior policy advisor Laura Silber in New York, clarified that the institute does not provide any funding to malaysiakini "directly or indirectly".
"As far as Seapa is concerned, OSI provided a grant in the form of a stipend to an advisor for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)," said Silber.
New York-based CPJ works closely with Seapa - a regional network of journalist organisations - in a joint effort to highlight the violations of press freedom in Southeast Asia.
"No funding whatsoever has been extended from OSI through Seapa to Malaysiakini.com," Silber added.
In a frontpage report, George Soros funds Malaysiakini, says Review today, NST quoted Umno vice-president Muhammad Muhammad Taib as saying that if the report was true, Soros' funding of malaysiakini would have serious repercussions on the country's sovereignty.
"It would represent a direct form of intervention in the country's affairs," he said. ***** (from nst 3feb01)
In an immediate reaction, Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib said if the report was correct, Soros' funding of a Malaysian news provider would have serious repercussions on the country's sovereignty.
"It would represent a direct form of intervention in the country's affairs," said Muhammad when contacted today.
Grassroots activist group Badan Bertindak Melayu's information chief Datuk Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said the authorities should determine whether Soros' alleged funding was channeled legitimately.
He said the authorities should take action against those involved if investigations conclude that the funding was channelled by the Open Society Fund to Malaysiakini.
Umno supreme council member Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stressed that locally-based news providers should not be linked with any international organisation which could affect their independence.
"We must not be indebted to those who harbour agendas," he said. *****